The main range continues the trend of offering new entry points with the thoroughly enjoyable Jonathan Morris story Waters of Amsterdam. Set early in Tegan’s second tenure in the TARDIS, we get a chance to learn more of what Tegan did in her time away, why Rembrandt is drawing spaceships and just what the mythical water creatures are doing in Amsterdam.
As I said, it’s an enjoyable story, but what makes it so?
First a recap, courtesy of the Big Finish product page:
Reunited with the Doctor and Nyssa, Tegan joins them on a trip to Amsterdam’s Rijkmuseum to see a new exhibition of the work of Rembrandt van Rijn, featuring his drawings of “Vessels of the Stars”. The Doctor is astonished to discover that they are designs for spaceships that would actually work, and decides to pop back to the Dutch Golden Age for a quiet word with Rembrandt – but the world-weary artist is no mood to help.
Meanwhile, strange forces are swirling in the canals, creatures from ancient myth, the watery, goblin-like Nix. What is their connection to the mysterious Countess Mach-Teldak – and to the events of Tegan’s life during her year away from the Doctor?
The story starts in Amsterdam and after some encounters with the watery Nix (kudos to Jonathan Morris for a great creation) ends up giving us both back-story for Tegan and a trip back in time to meet Rembrandt. The mysterious drawings in his paintings end up creating a new timeline in which humanity is far more technologically advanced and this all due to manipulation by the Countess Mach-Teldak (Elizabeth Morton). Written with humour and cunning, we get to meet Rembrandt (Richard James) and unlike other great artists in Doctor Who (van Gogh, da Vinci, Gallileo) Rembrandt is most antagonistic.
Tegan’s back-story becomes vital, her enigmatic ex-boyfriend Kyle (Tim Delap) has secrets of his own and even if the resolution is nothing unusual, the pacing works well and within the story the characters are all convincingly threatened by the situation.
It could also be argued this story is a reverse on the normal meddling in time. The Countess arrives on Earth, accelerates growth of technology and changes the destiny of the human race. As far as I can determine, she does this in a credible context, and the Doctor goes back to make this not happen and give us the history we remember. I will think longer about this.
[pullquote]plenty of trademark humour[/pullquote]
The story is told with plenty of trademark humour, and Tegan takes centre stage without quite eclipsing Nyssa or the Doctor. The Kyle idea is performed (and written) with good emotion and the whole piece avoids many obvious tropes. Jamie Anderson directs with aplomb, and this bodes well given he has stepped into the main range director’s seat while Ken Bentley focusses on the new Who titles.
Roll on next month and Aquitaine.